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Defining the kind of software you'll find on Arachnosoft

By Maxime Abbey - First published on 12-04-2000 on Arachnosoft, updated on 12-04-2013

What's a freeware?

A freeware program is a special type of software, that anybody can use without time limit and without being required to pay some money to its author.

It's a free (free as in "free beer", not as "free speech") IT creation which can be released under some conditions given by its author. As a result, the end-user does not have to pay to obtain a complete version of a freeware software, because a freeware is already a full version of a software, without any limited features.

The main difference with its opposite, the shareware, is here: shareware is a type of software which is often limited in time or features, and, if the end-user is satisfied by its use, it requires him/her to give some money to its author, to thank him/her for this work, and, as well, obtain a full, non-limited version of the software.

One of the drawbacks of freeware software compared to a paid software, is that freeware is released without any warranty from its author; this one will often deny any responsibility for any problems which could occur on the end-user's computer following the use of the software. Also, a freeware being often developed by its author during his/her freetime, (s)he can't offer the same level technical support than (s)he could provide for a commercial software.

A freeware is not necessarily a piece of software, it can be a collection of sounds or images, for example. But you can also find some IT creations which are being distributed as freeware: a spreadsheet document, some macros, a screensaver... Thus, you don't need to be a programmer to participate actively in IT.

Can we use a freeware as we want to?

Absolutely not! Even if it's free, a software released as freeware is put, explicitly or implicitly, under the control of its author. (S)he can easily mention, in his/her software documentation or website, some restrictions, like the prohibition to release it on some computer supports or the right to use the software for non-commercial use only. Those restrictions, given by the author of the software, are quite often thought to be non-abusive for the end-user.

Some restrictions are even often used, like the prohibition to distribute the freeware in exchange of money (unless it's a little fee aimed at covering distribution support's costs), or the prohibition to use the software for lucrative purposes, like in a firm. Such restrictions are here to prevent people to make money with the work of another person who gave it for free.

Warning though, because too many limitations or abusive restrictions can harm the distribution of a freeware. For example, a freeware which would be allowed to be released on the web only, would be therefore unreachable for a user which does not have an Internet connection, because their authors would forbid, with such a restriction, the distribution of their software through an IT magazine.

An author who releases his/her productions for free must then find a good balance between the rights he grants to the end-users and the rights (s)he owns on his/her software, so that the end-user doesn't feel frustrated by too much restrictions.

Beware of the terminology!

Freeware programs are sometimes denoted as being "free shareware", which is a language abuse, as the latter require payment! However, some derivated terms are widely spread and accepted, such as "cardware" or "emailware" which aim at asking the user to send an e-mail or postcard to its author to thank him for his work.

Moreover, do not confuse "free trial version" with "full free version". A "free trial version" often refers to a feature or time-limited version of a shareware or commercial software, aimed at demonstration purposes; as opposed to a "full free version", which would rather define a complete piece of software, free to use, independent from any other software, even if it can be a light version of a more powerful program.

Be also aware of freeware programs which can be described as "free software" (and vice-versa): both terms can either refer to a software which does not cost any money (free as in "free beer"), refer to an open-source software (which is free as in "free speech") or both.

An open-source software is distributed with its sources (the code or resources from which the program has been created) and often carries less restrictions than a freeware, even if their authors keep the control of their software.

Moreover, no confusion should be made, this time, with "public domain" software, which has been freed from any author rights and left to the public hands.

And what about the authors?

Perhaps you'll be wondering why does an author releases his/her work as freeware, as it does not bring him/her money?

Let's say that there are individuals who don't really care about using IT to earn money, but made this choice share their hobbies with you, or demonstrate their skills in a professional environment. And there are many more reasons for an author to write a freeware program; (s)he can, for example, release free software to promote another paid, full-featured piece of software.

But, even if a software is free, an excellent way to thank its author is to send him/her, by e-mail or postal address, your remarks and suggestions so that (s)he can enhance and ameliorate his program.

Giving your opinion on a software allows its author to enhance it to better fit your needs. Be aware that a little message is often enough to thank its author for weeks or months spent working on a freeware.

You can also help and reward a software author by spreading the word about his/her, on website, social networks or other media, and sharing the software among your friends, to increase his/her audience.

Your support is thus essential for us, freeware authors, because it can be somewhat unappealing to work for people who never give anything in return. And be sure that any contribution is always appreciated, financial or not!